For one reason or another, some people are incapable of making wise decisions. We understand that and overlook the imperfections of those whose brains are immature or damaged to the point that they’re unable to make sensible choices. We even agree that these people aren’t accountable to a higher power. Furthermore, we know that alcohol and other drugs change the way a person behaves. The part of a person that chooses good or evil can be healthy, or it can be sick. Thinking, speaking, and behaving are performed by a biological and physical brain capable of being affected by mind-altering substances, genetic defects, disease, and blunt force. Hence, gray matter is responsible for everything we think or do.
If we possess an internal, eternal spirit, it’s inept at prevailing over our biology. Drugs can’t affect a spirit; so if our spirits controlled our behavior we could be high as a kite and still operate motor vehicles, speak eloquently, and make intelligent decisions. We know this isn’t the case; if a spirit exists within us, it must bow to the wishes of our physical brain (and whatever happens to it); the spirit cannot overcome our intellectual shortcomings and help us do good or refrain from evil when our brains are either naturally not up to par or have been attacked by force or chemicals. The brain can honestly say to the spirit what Sarah said to Jareth the Goblin King in the movie Labyrinth: “You have no power over me.”
Our brain is our physical, accountable entity that thinks, puts words into our mouths, and rules over our actions. Therefore, if, after we die, a god adjudicates regarding our performance while we lived, that judgment should be directed toward our brain. Even if there is, somewhere within us, an eternal spirit for a god to evaluate, why should the spirit be condemned or rewarded for the actions of a biological brain over which it had no dominance or influence? Any spirit we might possess is not guilty of sin or capable of practicing virtue, and it neither requires nor deserves denunciation or recompense.
To be righteous and holy, any judging deity must appraise our brains. Unfortunately, the definition of death is that the brain has ceased to function, or, practically speaking, it no longer exists to be judged. Some might say the biological brain will be resurrected (“re-created” would be a more apt word) to present itself before the celestial throne and give an account of its actions. And the smarter we are, the more harshly we will be judged. If this is true, it would be better to be a Neanderthal on that great day when we all stand before the almighty judge of biological gray and white matter!
The story of Tammuz and Ishtar is enlightening. Ishtar has also been called Inanna, Hathor, Astarte, and possibly even Asherah/Ashtoreth of the biblical texts since the Israelites worshiped both Asherah and Tammuz. This story shines light on the beginnings of religious ideas, particularly Christian concepts.
Donald A. MacKensie wrote: “Among the gods of Babylonia none achieved wider and more enduring fame than Tammuz, who was loved by Ishtar, the amorous Queen of Heaven—the beautiful youth who died and was mourned for and came to life again.” In Ezekiel 8 the prophet condemns the Israelites for worshiping everything under the sun (v. 10), and the sun itself (v. 16). He stated: “Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD’S house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz” (Ezek. 8:14). This weeping was associated with agricultural rituals, as noted below:
“The holy one of Ishtar, in the middle of the year the fields languish . . . The shepherd . . . the man of sorrows, why have they slain . . . In his temple, in his inhabited domain, The child, lord of knowledge, abides no more . . . In the meadows, verily, verily, the soul of life perishes.”
“Corn deities were weeping deities, they shed fertilizing tears; and the sowers simulated the sorrow of divine mourners when they cast seed in the soil ‘to die’, so that it might spring up as corn.” As MacKensie noted, we see biblical references to this, as Psalm 126:5 speaks of sowing in tears and reaping in joy. Also, the apostle Paul spoke of sowing seed that dies after it is buried and is raised as something new (1 Cor. 15:36-37). (Jesus, of course, would end all the mourning. He would be the final “man of sorrows,” the ultimate god-man sacrifice made “once for all” to end all tears as well as all hunger [Is. 53:4, Jn. 6:35, Heb. 10:10, Rev.21:4)].)
“It was believed to be essential that human beings should share the universal sorrow caused by the death of a god. If they remained unsympathetic, the deities would punish them as enemies. Worshippers of nature gods, therefore, based their ceremonial practices on natural phenomena.”
Tammuz wasn’t the only god whose death and resurrection were necessary to human life. The “blood of Tammuz, Osiris, and Adonis reddened the swollen rivers which fertilized the soil. Various animals were associated with the harvest god, who appears to have been manifested from time to time in different forms, for his spirit pervaded all nature.”
Ishtar mourned for Tammuz, calling him her brother although he was also her lover and spouse (much like the heavenly Jerusalem was both the mother and wife of Jesus and the earthly Jerusalem was both the wife and daughter of Yahweh—Jer. 3:8, Lam. 2:13, Gal. 4:26, Rev. 21:2). But Tammuz, and other slain gods, came back from Hades and brought life once again to all of nature. We see this concept too in the Bible, as Yahweh, after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, rules over everybody, acts through everybody, and dwells in everybody and everything. He fills the universe, being in “everything in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and of all things which are in them” (Rev. 5:13 BBE; see also: Ps. 139:7-10; Jn. 14:20, 17:22-23; Acts 17:28; Eph. 1:9-10, 20, 2:5-6, 3:19, 4:6, 10; Col. 1:20 and 27, 2:10, 3:11). According to The Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said, “Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”
The point here, which Christians in particular need to consider, is: (1) the notion of a god’s giving his life or shedding his blood for humanity didn’t begin with Jesus; (2) in religious rites humans have always been required to participate in the “death and resurrection” of the gods, and (3) religious ideas are usually based on nature and a need to sustain human life (for the provision of food and circumvention of death).
One final thought must be presented regarding Ishtar. She seems to have come to the people’s defense, providing for them and never letting them down. When the prophet Jeremiah condemned his people for worshiping the “queen of heaven,” they replied:
Jeremiah 44 (BBE): 17 But we will certainly do every word which has gone out of our mouths, burning perfumes to the queen of heaven and draining out drink offerings to her as we did, we and our fathers and our kings and our rulers, in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then we had food enough and did well and saw no evil. 18 But from the time when we gave up burning perfumes to the queen of heaven and draining out drink offerings to her, we have been in need of all things, and have been wasted by the sword and by need of food.
I point this out to say: Although we may believe our god/goddess helped us maintain our sanity in times of trouble, provided a job for us when we were down and out, healed a toenail fungus, held back the rain on our wedding day, or found our lost keys, it may all be our imagination.
 Donald A. MacKensie, Myths of Babylonia and Assyria (1915), “Myths of Tammuz and Ishtar,” Ch. V, sacred-texts.com <http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/mba/mba11.htm>. Ibid.Ibid.Ibid.Ibid.Ibid. 7] Robert J. Miller, ed., The Gospel of Thomas, tr. Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer, The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version (Polebridge Press, 1992, 1994), 77.